How To Get the Right Narrator for Your Audiobook

You’ve written a non-fiction book.  You’ve self-published it.  Now you want to partner with ACX to produce an audiobook version.  That’s exciting because once you have an audiobook, it can sell on Audible, iTunes, and more.

To reach that goal, you’ll need a narrator-producer.  That’s the Voice Over Talent who will read, record, and produce your book.

ACX provides an easy way to let narrators know you’re looking, but it’s up to you to manage the process.  It’s important to use the system effectively to insure you get the best possible narrator.

So, how can you attract and choose the right narrator for your particular book?  Here are some guidelines that can help.

One – Choose a compensation method.  It’s up to you to decide how you’ll pay the narrator.  You can either pay a Per-Finished-Hour fee (PFH) or, pay by splitting the royalties 50/50.

PFH will be more attractive to narrators who are established and already getting standard fees for their work.  Except for union rates, industry rates for narrators are not standardized, but there are accepted ranges.  You can find more about that on ACX.

Royalties, the other method, will attract two types of narrators.  The first, most common, will usually be the less experienced narrator seeking to build their portfolio of completed work.  While they’re hoping for some return, they know they’re often just working for the experience.

The second type will be a narrator who is also a marketer. They’ll actually be looking for you if your book represents a promote-able opportunity.  That’s the case if your print book already has sales activity, or if you’ve chosen a popular topic that’s likely to generate sales.  It can work to your advantage, because the narrator will be making a significant effort to generate sales.  You win two ways. One, directly in audiobook sales, and two, in extra sales of your regular book.  When it comes to awareness, popularity, and ultimately, sales, there’s a direct relationship between your print version and your audio version.  Each benefits the other.

This is an area I specialize in – Audiobook marketing .  With many years of internet marketing experience, I find it can work well for both the book author and for my account.

Two – Write a compelling description of your book for your audition solicitation.  When you list your book on ACX to announce you’re accepting auditions, you post a brief description.  Narrators read that to help them decide whether they want to audition or not. You need to sell them on investing their time in responding.   Give them good reasons to do so.

For the PFH narrator, the rate will likely be of most interest.  But they’ll still want to spend their time on an interesting or challenging project.

For royalty-share, potential narrators will want to know that you will promote your audiobook. They’re interested in the reasons that it has a good chance to sell because that’s the only way they earn. Note that ACX automatically provides sales statistics and a link to your Amazon listing for your regular book.  Already having sales there will be enticing to a royalty-share narrator.  It’s especially attractive to a narrator who will themselves actively promote your audiobook.

Three – Prepare an effective audition script.  Choose the right segments of your book to use as the audition script.  Many authors don’t seem to give this as much thought as they should.  They just use their book’s introduction or a part of the first chapter.  But some parts of your book are likely to present extra challenges to a narrator.  Maybe it’s the deeply technical sections, or portions where there’s a lot of jargon unique to your subject.  You need to make sure your narrator can handle it.  Give them an audition script that lets them prove they can.

Four – When the auditions arrive, listen.  No, seriously, listen. Finding the right narrator is not just about picking a pleasant voice.  You want a narrator who can deal with your specific writing effectively and smoothly.  You want to hear your words come through clearly.  You want to hear how the narrator actually deals with the hard parts of your book.  You may be surprised that the narration doesn’t automatically match what you hear in your own mind as you read it.  That’s not critical.  With non-fiction, what’s important is that the narrator express the meaning clearly. No stumbles, mispronunciations, or misplaced emphasis.  Narrated, your book must be understandable.

Five – Check the narrator’s background.  Once you’ve narrowed your choices of narrators down, review their background in their ACX listing.  If they list a website, see what that says too.

If you will pay the narrator a Per Finished Hour fee, then make sure they’re experienced and professional.  Look for proof of past results.

If you’re looking at a royalty arrangement, you may have to depend on the audition as proof of ability rather than experience.  You may not even have many auditions to choose from.  While there are large numbers of narrators, there are also plenty of books needing narrators.  You may find your book only draws one or a few auditions.  Still, do your best to match your book to a narrator you believe will do your book justice.

That’s it. You worked long and hard on writing your book.  Now, you just need the right narrator/producer to turn it into a compelling audiobook.  It’s not simple, or necessarily easy to do right, but these five tips should help you in the process.


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